The Free Thinking festival makes a welcome return to Liverpool at the end of next month (31 October -- 2 November). Details are on the website (www.bbc.co.uk/freethinking ).
There's no shortage of "names" for the event. The writer Will Self will appear, as will David Puttnam, Stuart Maconie, Germaine Greer, Liam Fogarty (whose campaign for an executive mayor of Liverpool, http://www.amayorforliverpool.org/ , has been relatively muted recently) & Phil Redmond (who let him in?):
There is another speaker at the festival, someone whose presence could reignite bigotry & general malice in some parts of the city: Ian Paisley.
Yep, the bombastic bigot "will be discussing his writings, his faith and his long and often controversial political career", according to the blurb.
As I've mentioned before on this blog, Liverpool was once rent asunder by religious bigotry, particularly in the north end of the city. However, the post-war slum clearance programme greatly lessened it. Pockets of bigotry can still be found in the Everton district, but it isn't even a mere shadow of its former self. Paisley's presence in the city, however, could result in some pretty nasty confrontations.
I can understand the organisers of the Free Thinking festival in their stated remit to be challenging. However, inviting to the city a man who opposed civil rights for Northern Ireland's Catholic population is surely a step too far. You might as well invite Nick Griffin, too.
At this late stage the organisers should withdraw their invitation to Paisley